Category Archives: Featured

BAM. Ride Along – Forza 6 Let’s Play

This week kicks off the release of the Forza 6 demo on Xbox One, as a change of pace I decided to capture some of the gameplay to showcase what to expect. Since I’m doing a single installment I’m breaking these down track by track in text but the video will cover the experience. Not all videos will be this way but when it’s something new and pretty direct like this I might change it up.

That said, I used the stock Xbox One controller, I don’t have a racing wheel for the system so that’s where things will come from on the platform as I’m not sure when I’ll pick one up or if any companies would be interested in jumping along with a donor.

Video removed for now – Content ID claims for music made the original recording impossible to use. I’ll have to do another recording without the soundtrack. Future note, if you want to use Forza 6 footage on Youtube, the content creators will flag the life out of your videos. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem that Microsoft has sorted out anything to help the community at all.

First up we’re in Brazil on Circuito Do Rio De Janeiro in the 2017 Ford GT, the supercar takes to this street course against a pretty heavy lineup of opponents. As the first experience of Forza it’s also the safest delivery, the game sets all the controls to easy mode so you’re coddled along with safe lines, turning assist, braking assist and assist assist. For some it’s perfect because you have kids or others playing so you can just hold the trigger and basically have a racing experience. If you want to fudge the controls you can do manual braking and line switching and escape the grasp of the support system to some degree.

It’s a beautiful track though and without the assists in a Ford GT I think many players would leave chunks of that car scattered throughout the stage. Fortunately that’s not the case and it’s just scuffed bumpers and lots of rage in the narrow corridors of the track when passing feels nearly impossible or line blocking becomes the most frustrating experience in history.

After you complete the first level you jump into car selections, yada yada yada classics skip the hubbub pick your favorite car / the Subaru Impreza 22b or RX7 (it’s okay you know you want to) and jump into the mix.

The first of the qualifying series brings players to the Lime Rock Full length track, it’s 3 lap race where players work on coming in Top 3 over the 1.5m course. The track is fairly relaxed with open corners and lots of wiggle room, if  you’re new to the game leaving it on easy or normal is probably a good choice to understand things a little more with the car selected. The AI tends to let off in the easier corners and avoid any connections on the rumble strip so passing is usually possible on most inside turns.

Following Lime Rock is Yas Marina Circuit, for some it’s a pretty awesome track full of challenges… but it’s always been a nemesis track for me. Yas focuses on grip and downforce and without the right mixture it means going off-track is a given and struggles to regain that grip will act as a constant throughout the race until a steadier approach hits. This race isn’t a pretty one but I’ll keep taking cracks at it until I’m able to really produce a clean run without having to resort to flashbacks.

With Yas turning to a distant memory the qualifier skips to a drivers challenge with a battle at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a 7 lap Indy run. Going from heavy corners and low 100mph speeds to 220mph is a change of pace, fortunately as long as upcoming traffic patterns are anticipated correctly it doesn’t turn into a nightmare. The goal of the race is high-speed without ramming the car up the backside of all the opposition. Key things to remember are the behavior of the car under acceleration and deceleration as those will become critical during passing. It’s an enjoyable break and for the most part the experience was clean minus a few bad calls or late turns where I did end up touching with other cars.

The last leg of the journey ends at a wet and rainy Sebring International Raceway, it’s a nightmare to say the least with puddles and hydroplane for all. The key factor here is harnessing the power of the car to avoid bad slips when crossing puddles. For those in RWD cars that means working the gas as needed to keep up control of the car without sending the car into a race ending spin. Traction is obviously reduced and plowing the car off the track with understeer increases along with it, so it’s just a wild wacky fun zone of under and oversteer with a side of traction loss and spin. Gotta love it. The 22b used the AWD to its advantage most of the track to help pull it through fudged corners and away from the pack in general, it’s a good overall car but it’s not without challenges in Forza 6 as seen with Yas Marina.

The demo is a well-rounded experience for Forza 6, good variety of cars and tracks and it showcases the weather system and some of the custom options for players. Given the full game is only weeks away it’s worth checking out if there is any interest in the game, on top of that players can also earn special perks that transfer over to the retail game so why not?

BAM. Ride Along – GRID 2 (Hong Kong Touge)

Hello everyone, today you’re catching part of a new video series for BAM. where I (VX2) take on new and old racing titles within my Steam library. We’re checking out GRID 2 in a series of Touge races. Today focuses on Hong Kong’s Peak Road Descent in the daytime hours, it’s a street track that has a few twists and turns that throw off the weight of the car at higher speeds. In the later sections there are lower speed areas that lead into tighter corners where racers have to decide entry and exit strategy to keep up the fastest line until the last break on a long bending stretch of highway.

Personally for the Touge races I favor 4WD because I like to hang the car out a little more and make a show not only for the replay but for myself. The GT-R allows for this and in the rougher sections of Hong Kong I don’t stress the traction loss as hard as there are more chances to recover the car (although that didn’t stop me from hitting some walls in the replay at inconvenient times). It’s a personal preference although I’ve done well with RWD and FWD cars of other power levels and designs, when I want to have some fun it’s easier to do it here with that 5SPD transmission and have enough drag off the line to really put it to any opponent so I can grab that first corner in Tier 3 racing.

I hope everyone enjoys the video, there are more coming this season as I tackle more GRID 2, GRID Autosport, DiRT 3, DiRT Rally, Assetto Corsa and pretty much anything else I can get my hands on.

My setup:
AMD FX-8320 @ 4.4GHz
ASUS R9 290 DirectCUII @ 1000/1250
Gigabyte 990FXA-UD3
Logitech G27 Racing Wheel
DXRacer King Series – OH/KS57/NB

Skylanders Superchargers E3 Impressions

So Skylanders has a sequel for 2015, not really a shocker but there are a few items that stand out in the demo made available at E3 this year. One, the trap team pieces will have a function in the new title which provides elemental bonuses, it’s handy and a nice way to keep pieces relevant between generations. Two… the game incorporates racing / driving into the mix and while that allows them to gain traction on other popular franchises it’s the incorporation that hurts in this demo and by hurt I mean it really kills me a bit to see racing used so loosely.

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Most racing titles have adopted the standard of triggers as acceleration and braking mechanisms, they work well they’ve been doing this for ages as they’re not an on or off mechanism and they’re not bad to reach for most hands. Unfortunately Superchargers doesn’t want to follow this mindset, it now works to redefine how these controls work and make them a bit more complex than they need to be and even worse, it makes them harder to use than other titles on the market. A key point here is drifting your car in-game, normally there’s an e-brake for this in sims and arcade racers but in children’s oriented games they allow tricks, flicking the brakes and gas on and off or other sequences to create it, Mario Kart has done this for ages. Instead we’re stuck using trigger acceleration and buttons for braking or sliding which don’t mesh well.

For some it doesn’t sound odd, but it really is, let the thumb direct the car, the fingers pull the gas or brake and go from there as it minimizes the actions of the hand and in the event someone is using the right thumb for action it’s fine because it’s largely just sitting there on the gameplay anyway. It’s not Forza and even Forza doesn’t make this mistake, worse is that even if that was addressed there’s also a problem of inverted steering when deviating from a normal path. Going onto that half-pipe? Sorry, you controls stopped making sense. Going up that other side path straight ahead? Nope, doesn’t work there either, let’s flip those for you and turn every experience into opposites.

SSC_SuperCharged Barrel Blaster

It’s problematic because a childrens game is designed to be accessible and fun without overdoing it and alienating them while their older siblings or parents get it and tear things up. As it stands, Superchargers fails to consider the key demographic behind the game and offers a subpar performance in the car area. I really hope they’re able to pick things up in the future before release otherwise it’s a title I’d really hesitate to pick up. It seems like Activision would have put more time into the control system of the cars but in the current state it’s more like an afterthought.

BAM. Reviews – Crysis (PC)

It’s Fall 2007, my X1800XT is ready for battle and wait… okay so it’s not 2007 it’s 2015 and we’re putting Crysis x64 through the paces in a fresh review that’s heading toward 8 years too late. Recently I picked up Crysis on Steam because it was on sale for $5 and it’s nice to have digital copies of things that were once on disc.

For those late to the game, Crysis was the first project by the Crytek team after departing Ubisoft and the Far Cry series, keen to make another visually cutting edge island adventure we saw Crytek go to extreme lengths creating a cinematic PC engine that would tax hardware for ages to come. Crysis takes players into their own action film, powered up with a nano-suit that enhances defense, strength, speed and even offers camo to slip around the jungle and bypass opponents or allow for stealth kills. It’s campy, it has some holes in the story and odd pacing but it’s the whole experience of this story. The cut scenes and the visuals are sharp and real-time which wasn’t all that common for consistency back then that really made Crysis stand out.

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Because of the innovations and coding at the time with Crysis as one of the first Direct X 10 titles out there it was a monster for PC’s to take on and it brought about the reputation as a benchmark for raw power in a system. Oddly enough it still is that demanding, on a R9 290 OC I was able to appreciate breakneck speeds hovering up to 100fps but also witness particle and shader effect moments that went into the mid 20’s at random. Part of that could fall under optimization issues but still it’s a moment that takes anyone back at the fact that Crysis can still throw those blows.

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Story wise, players take on the role of Nomad, one of an elite group of nano-suit powered soldiers taking on a power mad general on a remote island. The goal of course, to investigate and diffuse the situation but what would that be without a bit of tension and unknown to mix things up. Right out of the gate it’s impossible miss the twist ahead, a random flying object disrupts the drop to the island sending everyone apart . As the team tries to get back together the death and chaos start surrounding them, it’s a dash to sort out what’s really going on in the middle of Korean soldiers laying waste to the jungle to catch you. As things hit their twist the story gets a bit slower and honestly a bit sparse, players take on zero gravity and alien hives with a sudden change in plot to survive at any cost. It’s a shame since it had some good potential to do more but there’s a ton of action and enemies to continue experiencing so I guess that was the filler.

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Gameplay is one of the memorable aspects of Crysis, it’s a throwback to Far Cry in this massive open world experience, diving into the ocean, swimming for attack boats, combing through the jungle and essentially taking any path desired to get the job done. It’s still rewarding even now, not just because of those options but what happens when you mix it up with the physics of the game, punching apart houses, blowing up stacked cars, leveling trees in the forest and sucking it all in. Sadly once the midpoint of the game hits, this sense of wonder and exploration dies in favor of a linear progression, it’s one of the biggest pitfalls for me with Crysis when playing. The experience is enjoyable but you’re left hanging after so much freedom and it lingers in the mind while taking on the rest of the story.

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For those used to traditional shooters there’s a learning curve to handling Crysis, the game works to mimic motion and physics so shots aren’t just “aim, shoot, kill, next” tracking players and planting shots ahead of movement to take down active opponents is a critical part of the experience and learning how to conserve ammo as it gets very limited. The rest of the game is fast to pick up on, learning when to use power, defense and how to maximize camo usage without falling into exposure mid-run.

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Graphically Crysis is obviously a very impressive game, when cranked to very high the presentation is competitve to modern titles. Textures are sharp, water behavior and physics are impressive and the experience is just so well honed for those who see it the first time or come back through again to suck up some of the environment. For those running lower end hardware the grading on Crysis is a bit unforgiving though, Low – Very High is a tough comparison even if many of the features are still there just in very crude form. It’s still best to experience Crysis with at least higher resolution textures if your system allows for it.

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So what’s the appeal if the game is just passing 7 years in age and a bit of a mess when it comes to the complete package? It’s that first experience and coming back around to screw around in the world. Unlike other games, Crysis offers full power out of the gate, as a result players can dominate the landscape if they wish especially after a healthy experience through the campaign. Knowing how to shoot, when to use camo, how to punch someone into the sky and appreciating the ability to wreck a house and leaving the patrol to panic over it. There are also console commands to really mess around with the game and at that point the replay value just keeps going up as players maximize the sandbox experience in the first half of the game and master how to handle every possible scenario.

For me Crysis will never be the perfect action game, but it goes just far enough to stand as one of the shooters I can always come back to and appreciate while passing some of the day. Coming back to it after a few year hiatus was a rewarding experience as I hadn’t completed the entire game for some time. Anyone with the PC power to swing the game should give it a look, it’s usually on sale for $5 on Steam so it’s really hard to avoid the purchase, there’s incredible value for that kind of money.

With that wrapped, it’s on to the next roll of the dice in the Steam list.

Gamebalaya Podcast 46: 08-01-14 – Drop a Sample Into The Reactor

This week we are joined by David, Lydia and Gabe as we talk about our adventures at San Diego Comic-Con! We also talk about GameStop, the types of people you see in pre-order lines, Homefront 2, Deep Silver, Crytek, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Battlefield Hardline, Google buying Twitch, Escape Dead Island, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, Youtuber controversy, Destiny, The Crew, MechWarrior Online and more!

Check out this episode!

First Impressions – GRID Autosport PC

GRID Autosport launched during the Steam sale in June, not the ideal situation but at least they marked it down. After having some time hands on with the game though I do question if it should have gone up to full price. Granted it’s pretty, has variety in disciplines for racing and has a familiar and rounded appeal for racing fans but… the execution is where things get a bit strange.

I admit I enjoyed GRID 2, it was simple to jump into and didn’t require much thought, I do enjoy car setups and minor tuning options and it was something I could just jump into. That said… GRID Autosport could offer that same appeal but the assist system really restricts the enjoyment. On top of that, things requested by the community like cockpit view have been implemented but in a limited sense, using blur and low detail models for the impression.

Personally, I don’t like the cockpit view all that much, the new over the hood drivers side mount is actually very alluring to me though as the camera is no longer dead center in the car like I’m driving a McLaren F1 and allows me a bit of genuine perspective on where the car limits are instead of just guessing and using experience to fudge the corners. It’s a good catch by what seemed like a less vocal audience compared to the cockpit users.

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Overall the impressions aren’t awful but the handling makes it hard for new players to integrate into the game, the overbearing TCS and ASC drag the car down, I actually did a test video to showcase this.

The brakes / car computer take over going into the corners and even with a high speed entry leaning for oversteer, it corrects. While this could be somewhat helpful later on, in the early stages of the game it murders the little performance cars like Golf have in the game.

There’s more to explore and a deeper experience with the season mode to experience but it’s a bit of a missed opportunity as an update to the series as it lead up with so much talk about the return to TOCA and improvements. There are some around but it could have come so much further and hit all the audiences.

Test system:

AMD FX 8320 @ 4.4GHz
ASUS R9 290 DirectCU II
Logitech G27 (Manual, H Pattern, Clutch)
GRID Autosport with 4K pack